The Progress of Soviet Science

Courtesy Reuters

SINCE the beginning of the nineteenth century science and technology have been playing a greater and greater rôle in shaping the lives of individuals, communities and nations. This has been true particularly in the West, where economic, social and political institutions and customs have been largely transformed by technological advances based on scientific accomplishments. Economic, social, political and spiritual values all still play their independent parts in creating the pattern of modern civilization. Nevertheless, running through nearly all of the complex mechanism of modern living are strands of technological advance which run back to the knot of some major scientific discovery. It is only reasonable to assume that this process will continue. If so, our ways of living and the direction of world affairs 10 to 20 years from now will be materially affected by what is being done or not done in the industrial development and engineering laboratories at the present time. Similarly the shapes of things a half-century hence will depend a great deal on what is going on in the pure science research laboratories now.

All these truisms about science and technology in the West apply to the Soviet Union. Perhaps they have not applied for quite so long a time, but there can be no doubt that the powerful Soviet state confronting the world today is based on substantial accomplishments by Soviet scientists and educators as well as on effective performance by Soviet engineers and technologists. Beyond this, it is clear that the future balance of world power will depend to a considerable extent on Soviet success or lack of success in the international race for scientific knowledge and technological achievement. Knowledge of the main features of Soviet science--its traditions, ideology, organization and personnel-- may therefore enable us to assess some of the accomplishments of Soviet science and its hopes for the future.

Science was introduced into Russia by Peter the Great. Impressed by scientific demonstrations on his Western travels, he brought back to St. Petersburg a number

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